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Today is May 23, 2022

Outdoors

Boss Birds and Spring Splendor

By Tony Kinton

Boss Birds and Spring Splendor

Since turkeys are ground nesters, they are vulnerable to predation and spring flooding.

Common speculation is that Benjamin Franklin wanted to proclaim the wild turkey as America’s national bird. This assumption, invalid though it was, resulted from a letter Franklin wrote extolling the virtues of the turkey and the shortcomings of the eagle. The turkey never officially gained the endorsement of Franklin, but the story has long been circulated and erroneously concluded as fact. The national bird, we all know, is the bald eagle.

There is substance aplenty to place the wild turkey in a position of high regard. Franklin thought the bird courageous. Many, both yesteryear and today, consider the wild turkey a particularly delightful entity to bake or fry or handle in several other avenues of meal making. All these factors are correct, but there is even more to the wild turkey.

Some may say he is gaudy, an accurate assessment. Puffed up and strutting on a spring morning, a gobbler is regal while at the same time a touch pretentious. His displays are exercises of grandiosity, of juvenile yet noble behavior, and presentation. He fans and pirouettes and drums and walks in a stiff-legged fashion comprised of short spurts of forward movement, this accompanied by that drumming and fan flaring and pirouetting. A turkey is also a gobbler. The wildest of sounds, save perhaps the bugle of a bull elk or the dark-night rumble of a lion. Gobbling is wildness in audio.

And the wild turkey is… well, wild. Whether housed in a hen or gobbler, that wildness is the leading force of the turkey’s survival. An old saw among hunters is that a deer thinks every hunter is a stump, and a turkey thinks every stump is a hunter. That is not far from the truth. Swat a mosquito or blink an eye at the wrong moment and the game is over. Turkeys can vacate real estate at near 20 mph on foot; and airborne, maybe 50.

But they are not immune to all calamities. Obviously, hunters take turkeys, but this is a small percentage of mortality. The real damage comes in the form of habitat loss, predation, and spring flooding. Turkeys are, after all, ground nesters, and this affords a strong hand of destruction to those last three entities just mentioned. Still, turkey populations are strong throughout their range and are regulated with reasonable guidelines that assure turkey numbers remain solid.

I still hunt turkeys from time to time. Not as often as in past years, but I generally go. Whether I shoot or not is immaterial. But having an encounter and conversation with a gobbler is much appreciated. The price of admission for this is to get in the spring woods before daylight and listen intently. Some visitors may not choose that expenditure. But those who don’t are missing a grand adventure in proximity of wild things. So, with shotgun or not, get out and enjoy the drama. It is a glorious performance.

 

Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. He lives in Carthage and is a Central Electric member. Visit www.tonykinton.com for more information.

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